On this page, I post selections from the comments sections of various posts that tell stories about othorexia.  (If you enjoy hatemail comments, you can find them here.)

At a future date, I will post replies to certain of these. Currently, I often reply in the comments section, or, sometimes, directly to the poster.

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Renee writes: I have not read your book but I’m very interested in this topic. One of the problems, as I see it, is that people recovering from anorexia/bulimia often have digestive problems. So when they seek out advice on how to heal their guts, and their doctors throw up their hands, the alternative health community is quick to respond by instructing them to cut out entire food groups and eat in a hyper-restrictive, hyper-vigilant way – which just fuels the fears and obsessions around food.
At least that’s what happened to me. I spent years and thousands of dollars seeking help formy digestive problems after anorexia, and I got nowhere. I just got more freaked out about food, more broke, more underweight and more sick.
So my point is that people with anorexia/bulimia are more succeptible to orthorexia and that health practicioners should be cautious, when dealing with eating-disordered clients, to focus more on whether they are eating enough (which no one did with me, even though I was patently underweight), rather than convince them that they are hurting themselves by eating a normal North American diet, as I was let to believe.

TH writes: I have been trying to find a way to contact you since finding your article online describing orthorexia. My brother is in serious danger of losing his life due this disorder; values he holds in the extreme, apparently to the death in his case. He has been hospitalized for almost two months and unfortunately there is no sensitivity to his condition and the treatment to date seems almost as bad or worse than his condition. We are in Los Angeles. I would greatly appreciate a chance to speak with you and am seeking the benefit of your experience as I try to help him

Emily writes, “Wow. When I first heard of orthorexia last year, I realized that I had gone through it myself. I’m now in a place where I feel able to eat just about anything, though I choose healthy, home-cooked foods most of the time because I like them. I do not feel deprived. As a food therapist and health counselor, I still struggle to keep my diet suggestions simple: add in whole, organic, fresh foods (you’ll find that they quickly and effortlessly start to replace some of the “bad” food in your diet without having to use willpower), and focus on the other areas of your life (career, relationships, spirituality) where you are starving and need non-food sustenance.

Food is a powerful substance–as powerful as any drug or spiritual experience. Orthorexics suffer, I believe, from the same thing as fast-food addicts, overeaters, and anyone who puts their focus on the tangible: lack of purpose. We all need purpose in our lives: and purpose is found in our careers, relationships, and spiritual disciplines. We need exercise that isn’t only for the sake of effort or weight loss, but also for clearing our heads, enjoying our bodies and what they can do, and celebrating nature. When we are unhappy or focused too much on any one of these areas, we become imbalanced, and what we eat is almost always affected.”

Steven Home writes: Thank you for this wonderful article. As an herbalist and alternative healer, it has really bothered me how people become addicted to dietary “isms” that practically become a religion to them. I think people eat too much from their head and don’t pay enough attention to their bodies, that is, how food makes them feel.

I find there is no “perfect” diet. I do think people are wise to stay away from refined and processed foods in general, but I doubt that indulging in the occasional treat does them any serious harm. Different people have different allergens, so the fact that a particular food doesn’t suit me well doesn’t mean it’s universally “bad.”

Furthermore, our dietary needs change throughout our life. They change with the seasons of the year and the life stresses we are under. They change with the aging process, too.

Again, thank you for pointing out this “side effect” of trying to teach people to eat healthier.

GRP writes: “I have recently come out of a long and loving relationship with a wonderful young woman who suffers from this exact condition combined with OCD and an exercise compulsion. The amount of unrelenting, crippling stress and anxiety it placed on her, and to a degree myself as I tried to support and understand her, over the 4 1/2 years we were together is impossible for me to encapsulate in a few sentences. It is incredibly distressing to see someone go through this as they strive to do the best for themselves in such a self destructive way. Up until now every health professional has misunderstood her. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed that some people have dismissed the notion of Orthorexia, (very rudely in some cases here). I can assure them it is real and the cause of misery. Dr Bratman should be supported in his endeavours to help sufferers and I applaud his efforts.”

D1Xcrunner writes: “I know this ‘healthy eating disorder’ is going to get a bad rap in a largely-overweight community, but as a national-caliber athlete, I can testify to how this is a disorder in itself. It’s not that the people are eating healthy, but that they are so mentally worried about eating “healthily” that they physically display symptoms of malnutrition. Maybe it’s because a “eat healthy or don’t eat at all” mentality gets developed.

The female distance runners on the national-caliber college team I am apart of all eat extremely healthy, but their focus on health leads to physical and mental health issues. The logic for these girls is “the more good foods I eat, the better, right?”

Granted, the cases I have seen may be leaning toward anorexia, or simply not eating enough, but I think this healthy eating disorder is a spin-off anorexia. Many people believe “I’m eating, therefore I can’t be anorexic,” but if they severely restrict what they are eating, they become amenorrheic, underweight, with low bone density, and very susceptible to injury and future health issues.

I doubt the cases I have seen are strictly “orthorexia,” but I imagine this mental disorder exacerbates many physical eating disorders.”

Jacqueline R writes, “Unfortunately it isn’t ridiculous, i have a very good friend who suffers from this condition and to see the distress it causes her and her family is heartbreaking, not knowing what to do to be able to help is so frustrating and upsetting, i just wish someone would offer her some help before it is too late.”

Stephanie writes, “I don’t think this is ridiculous at all, and I don’t think he wrote this just to make “abuck.” I can competely see how this obsession with healthy eating could lead to malnutrition and death. I’ve had food addiction and obsession problems in the past, and I know it’s so easy to get pulled into that trap if you have low self-esteem or control issues.”

Avary writes, “I know someone who suffers from orthorexia, and he loses weight like crazy yet just wants to eat healthy. It’s not ridiculous, it’s real. And it’s scary to watch a friend go through it, not being able to eat with his friends when they go out because he is so afraid of eating unhealthy foods. He has been trying to kick this disorder, and he has even expressed extreme dissatisfaction with his low weight. People with orthorexia need support, not criticism.”

Avery writes,“Absolutely wonderful! Thank you! I feel there is yet another classification: orthorexia paranoia. For over 30 years I’ve been controlling severe migraines, mood swings, asthma, muscular and joint pains with my diet. With the alternative being blinding, crippling pain and unpleasant, unsociable outbursts, the choice was easy enough to make. I am obsessive and somewhat gratified to find that – while it takes three to five years – eventually society seems to catch up to meeting my limitations. Then I develop another round of new allergies, need to move foods from the “can” section of the list to the “can’t”. Occasionally I wonder how sick I’d actually get if I just broke down and had that pizza and the fries, a taco and some peanut M&M’s, a hotdog, a pretzel, strawberry ice cream, some fresh mango, a sushi roll, some tempura and all the sauces, a BLT with mayo and a glass of orange juice or a cola… And I don’t try to find out. I drink a glass of warm filtered water and try to work up an interest in the stuff still on the “can” side of the list. And you’re right – this life style totally trashes a social life – unless I’m cooking, I can count on eating alone.”